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New & Notworthy

by The Editors 03-23-2017
Four May cultural recommendations from our editors.
Prison Nightmares

Rikers: An American Jail , a documentary film from journalist Bill Moyers, draws on interviews with former detainees at a notorious facility, New York City’s Rikers Island, for insight into the violence and futility of U.S. mass incarceration. Airing on PBS in May, with faith-based viewers’ guide available for download. rikersfilm.org

Not Just a Game

Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography , by Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb, details how faith helped Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues, endure abuse and fight for civil rights, on and off the field. WJK

Mind the Gap

Economist Thomas Piketty’s landmark 2014 book on growing wealth inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is brilliant, but daunting at more than 600 pages. Enter Pocket Piketty, by inequality data specialist Jesper Roine, a portable and accessible introduction to Piketty’s vital and evermore-timely ideas and analysis. OR Books

Love and Dissent

With both love songs and protest anthems such as “Corrupción,” Ani Cordero’s new Latin rock album, Querido Mundo (Dear World), is a full-hearted call to embrace life and social justice in the face of disturbing politics in the U.S. and around the world. anicordero.info

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 03-21-2017
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Veterans’ Affairs

Wonderful to see Standing Rock featured on the front cover and within the February 2017 issue (“A Chorus of Resistance,” by Gregg Brekke). One other moment people might have missed: Some among the thousands of veterans supporting the water protectors went down on their knees to apologize for the atrocities committed by Army units against the Sioux people over the centuries of white hegemony. The elders forgave them. I, for one, wept at the grace of this.

Katharine Preston
Essex, New York

Where Two or More Are Gathered ...

There are some things in the article “Where Protestantism Went Wrong” (by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, February 2017) that leave me unsettled. The article seems to indicate that a single person (a bishop or whomever) is a better arbiter of the truth than a council or a group (presbytery, synod, etc.). By declaring the priesthood of all believers, the Reformation raised up the importance of all people—educated, ordinary, or otherwise. My experience has been that, on the whole, a council or group is more likely to arrive at a truthful, correct, or workable solution to whatever issue is before them than any one individual in the group.

Mike Smathers
Crossville, Tennessee

‘Duck’ And Cover?

I finished my reading of Rose Marie Berger’s “Mosquito Manifesto” (February 2017) with a positive feeling. Almost immediately, however, another image flashed through my mind: a short cartoon in which Donald Duck goes on vacation. Sitting in his lounge chair on the lawn, relaxing at last, Donald is set upon by a lone mosquito. Those who know the temperament of Donald Duck can guess the outcome. The final scene shows the mosquito escaping into the sky as Donald destroys his mountain cabin with shotgun blasts in a last vain attempt to rid the world of this pesky mosquito.

Is there not a real danger that instead of bringing down the giant, Lilliputian style, we mosquitos might actually provoke annihilation, not just of ourselves but of many unintended victims of the wrath of the powerful who will not care who they hurt in their attempts to rid the world of us?

David Tidball
Roseville, Minnesota

Not Alter Egos

In the February 2017 issue of Sojourners, Will Willimon makes an excellent case for the need to address racism from the pulpit (“Preaching the Devil Out”). However, as a Christian mental health professional, I disagree with his contrast between preaching and psychotherapy. I agree the two are separate, but one is not inferior to the other. Willimon characterizes psychotherapy as a luxury only privileged people use. This is based on historical fact, dating back to Freud, when psychoanalysis was provided only to the very richest. Today, however, mental health is constantly striving to be available to the poor and culturally diverse. I can think of no other institution, including the American church, that is more dedicated in practice to understanding and spreading unity among diverse people groups. I suggest that therapists and pastors pursue this goal together, using our unique talents in tandem, instead of trying to become an alternative to the other.

Nick Schollars
via email

“On the other hand…” Write to letters@sojo.net or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 02-27-2017
Four April cultural recommendations from our editors.
An Enduring Voice

Theologian of Resistance: The Life and Thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Christiane Tietz, is an accessible and compact biography of this German theologian, executed by the Nazis, whose writings on Christian community, resistance, and conscience hold continuing power in our times. Fortress Press

Come Together

Deidra Riggs explores God’s call to love in a way that crosses all divisions (even race and political affiliation) in One: United in a Divided World. She reflects on the aftermath of police shootings of black men as well as the fissures in everyday life. BakerBooks

Song and Poetry

The two-volume Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music features essayist, poet, and farmer Berry reading his work, music by Grammy-nominated bluesman Eric Bibb, and choral and art song settings by composer Andrew Maxfield based on Berry’s work. Volume 2, All the Earth Shall Sing, was recently released.
wendellberrymusic.org

We Gon’ Be Alright

Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America is a collection of essays by A.M.E. pastor, Huffington Post contributor, and social commentator Michael W. Waters. He is both blunt and lyrical as he meditates on police violence, racism, hip-hop, and the power of faith. Chalice Press

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 02-21-2017
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers
Eye of the Beholder

In “Where Protestantism Went Wrong” (February 2017), Wesley Granberg-Michaelson rightly critiques some of the consequences of the Reformation. Surely he is inaccurate, however, in arguing that “the Reformation bred a mistrust of aesthetics.” It would be more accurate to state that it promoted a different aesthetic than that prevalent in Catholicism. New England Puritans, for example, developed a “plain style” in literature and architecture evident in the accessible prose of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation and the beauty of many Congregational churches still standing in town squares. This plain style influenced modern literature and the “form follows function” aesthetic of much modern architecture. Sometimes, to quote a fine expression of the Protestant aesthetic, “ ’tis a gift to be simple.”

Walter Hesford
Moscow, Idaho

Name Drop

Jim Wallis has asked the question that I, and I am sure others, have been wrestling with for some time: “What is an evangelical?” (“White Evangelicals and the Election,” January 2017). As an 81-year-old Lutheran pastor, I have been advocating that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America drop the word “evangelical” from our name. The word has been hijacked; the original meaning has been perverted! Retaining the word in our church’s name distorts the very heart of our identity. The change should not be that significant for Lutherans; when “evangelicals” meet, the ELCA is usually absent. It is sad but true that other words must be employed to convey the powerful identity that the word evangelical once held.

Bernard Kern
North Richland Hills, Texas

Stick to the Facts

I was disappointed in your January 2017 issue’s exclusive focus on the danger Trump poses because of a “racist, misogynistic, ethnocentric brand of nationalism” and policies that likely will hurt poor, vulnerable people (“Is America Possible?” by Heath W. Carter). What of his cavalier attitude toward facts, evidence, and truth, such as his disputing the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming? When our culture is on a binge of finding “truth” in unwarranted places, and people are believing what they want to believe no matter how far off the mark (with the encouragement of our president), our democracy is in serious, long-term danger.

Roger Brooks
Madison, Wisconsin

Stop Talking

In David Gushee’s November 2016 piece on abortion (“The Abortion Impasse”), where are women’s voices? Where is the acknowledgment that there are no women’s voices here? Gushee supports not banning abortion. In some cases. I get that. But the rhetoric, implicit and explicit, embodied in such statements and phrases as “abortion is the sad song that never ends,” “the everyday ‘garden variety abortions’ go on and on,” and “that miserable drive to the abortion clinic” send chills of exclusivity, domination, privilege down this reader’s spine. “What is an anxious Christian to do about all this?” Listen to women’s and girls’ stories. Listen. And listen. And listen.

Priscilla Atkins
Holland, Michigan

 

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 01-31-2017
Four March cultural recommendations from our editors.
Righteous Rage

For the critically acclaimed film I Am Not Your Negro, filmmaker Raoul Peck drew upon an unfinished manuscript by writer James Baldwin and archival footage to fashion a searing narration about race in America. Opens in theaters in February. Magnolia Pictures

People of the Book

In Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know, John Kaltner, a Rhodes College professor of Muslim-Christian relations, explains the basics of Islam, including frequently misunderstood practices. Originally released in 2003, this is a newly revised and expanded edition. Fortress Press

Multiplying Gifts

A Chicago church divided a financial windfall among its members, $500 each, telling them to use it to do good in God’s world. Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell tell the practical and inspiring lessons learned in Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the Real World. Wm. B. Eerdmans

Displaced Prophets

Mishwar Music , by The Homsies, is a three-song EP recorded in a refugee camp in Akkar, Lebanon, with a team of youth from Homs, Syria. It is available for download on Bandcamp. mishwar.org

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 01-24-2017
Letters to the Editor from Sojourners readers
Spirit of Compassion

I read with great interest the article on Northmead Assembly of God’s Circle of Hope AIDS clinic in Zambia (“When the Spirit Comes Down,” by Wonsuk Ma, January 2017), because I spent six months in 2011 conducting research there with support groups for people living with HIV. Clinic clients I interviewed reaffirmed my observations about staff members’ dedication, often reporting that they were grateful that the clinic was in their low-income neighborhood. Most crucially, I noted how staff members showed acceptance and compassion toward all clients. While the clinic faces challenges—long lines, clients who sometimes do not adhere to their medications, excellent staff members who may be “poached” by other donors—it does important work in Zambia’s AIDS response.

Amy Patterson
Sewanee, Tennessee

Charismatic Failure

It is encouraging to hear about the good work being done in Pentecostal churches around the globe (“When the Spirit Comes Down”). However, there was not one word in the article about the plight of homosexuals living in these societies. These churches are often at the forefront of oppressing gay people in the name of religion. Until we all confront the horrific situation of gay people (ostracism, forced marriage, beatings, prison, and execution) in so many places, especially Africa and the Caribbean, I can’t take these churches or their brand of religion seriously.

Robin Van Liew
Holden, Massachusetts

Crowning Achievement?

Thank you for providing a magazine that I am able to count on for intelligence and sensitivity in both your writing and reporting. However, I must take exception to the claim that Elizabeth I “founded” the Anglican Church (“Entering my ‘Power Decade,’” by Catherine Woodiwiss, January 2017). While it is true she is credited for the eponymous settlement, those acts of Parliament did not “found” anything that did not already exist. They smoothed the waters so that the English church could proclaim the gospel in relative peace.

Carlton Kelley
Traverse City, Michigan

Hillbilly Business

I want to thank you for publishing the article by Susan K. Smith on John Rush in your December 2016 issue (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). It presents a different (and more accurate) example of Appalachia than does J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy. As a born-and-bred hillbilly, I take great umbrage at Vance’s book. It is a very courageous memoir of one family, but that’s what it is—the story of one very dysfunctional family and the salutary effects of the Marines on one very mixed-up young man. Most poor and working-class Appalachians have not become as disoriented and dysfunctional as Vance’s family. Many of them, like Rush, have started enterprises of their own or are otherwise engaged at jobs they find rewarding. While not all these businesses are social enterprises as is Rush’s, they all nevertheless indicate successful adjustments to situations in which people find themselves.

Mike Smathers
Crossville, Tennessee

Assets in Heaven

Please do more articles on businesses that have doing good in the world as their bottom line (“Can Business Be Beautiful?”). Business owner John Rush makes a point about the profit-making business model that it is the love of money that is a problem, not having money itself. A current line of research, however, is showing that it isn’t as simple as that; money and decision-making power over others quickly reduce compassionate awareness and behavior. Jesus was right about wealth: Good motivations and intentions are not enough. Any condition that reduces our sense of shared vulnerability with others works against our ability to live lives of universal love.

Arden Mahlberg
Madison, Wisconsin

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 12-22-2016
Four February culture recommendations from our editors.
Wherever You Go ...

In Why Am I Here?, by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen and Akin Duzakin, a picture book for ages 5 to 9, a child ponders the many different places she could be: a huge city, an isolated forest, a war zone, fleeing to a strange land. A book that encourages empathy and acknowledges the big questions that kids ask themselves. Eerdmans

Faith for the Struggle

Shannon Daley-Harris, religious affairs adviser for the Children’s Defense Fund, offers scriptural meditations to inspire and sustain advocates and nurturers in Hope for the Future: Answering God’s Call to Justice for Our Children. Includes questions for faithful response. Westminster John Knox

No Easy Road

Activist and artist Anthony Papa writes about the challenges of rebuilding his life after serving 12 years for a nonviolent drug offense, his work to change oppressive drug-sentencing laws, and memories of prison in This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency15yearstolife.com

Life Out of Death

“I did not understand how people changed so much: Some became executioners, others became victims,” writes Holocaust survivor Magda Hollander-Lafon in Four Scraps of Bread, a slim volume of piercing, simple-yet-profound reflections on her journey through hell and back. Notre Dame Press

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 12-19-2016
Letters to the Editor from Sojourners readers
A Plateful of Good Stuff

“Game Changer?” by Rose Marie Berger in the December 2016 issue really challenges me as a Catholic. We are called to be a peace church. We are disciples of a nonviolent redeemer and liberator. I want to be nonviolent. It would mean that I have to love nonviolently. I cannot call anyone names. I should love the members of the other political party and work for unity. I should be a listener. I should advise military people to be conscientious objectors in violent affairs, and maybe more than that. I will love the veterans, as I presume they did what they did according to their conscience. I have a plateful of good stuff to do. Help me, dear Lord.

Rev. Anthony Kroll
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota

Those Who Have Ears ...

In the days following the ugliest election in my life (I was born in 1945), I have seen few, if any, commentaries on how this election impacted the children of America. Our kids hear our fears and anxieties, as well as what they hear on TV or radio, but they are not able to deal with and process those fears as are adults.

What is our Christian responsibility to help our children deal with and overcome the fear and anger they feel when they hear the president-elect denigrate minority groups and promote violence against those who disagree? This is truly a teachable moment in every house of worship, and not just for adults. Our kids are suffering, and we cannot let the words of a narcissistic bigot go unchallenged. I agree with everything Jim Wallis said (“Ministers of Reconciliation,” December 2016), but I urge us not to forget the children.

 

Bill Turney
Houston, Texas

Ministers of Inspiration?

I was thrilled to receive my first issue of Sojourners magazine and find Jim Wallis’s article titled “Ministers of Reconciliation.” I am grateful for the reassuring inspiration I derived from his words.

Rev. Dale Morris Lee
Denver, Colorado

A Heavy Hand

In your November 2016 issue, David Gushee writes of Americans yelling at each other about abortion and our polarization on the subject (“The Abortion Impasse”). But he shows his own polarization with the sentence, “Having actually held dead 18-week fetuses in my hands ... I think it is indeed a travesty that abortion is permitted in non-emergency circumstances as late as that.” I ask him: Have you ever held the hand of an 18-year-old girl dying of sepsis from a backstreet illegal abortion? I have. When abortion is not legal or the financial cost is too high, the poor seek out the unskilled—which can take weeks—while the wealthy go to other countries. Until we have a country that cares for and about all its citizens by lowering our high infant mortality rate and doing away with guns, wars, death penalties, and cop shootings, why should anyone worry about abortions? I think the answer is: It is a way to subjugate women. As Gloria Steinem says: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

Elizabeth Dunbar
South Hamilton, Massachusetts

New & Noteworthy

by The Editors 12-05-2016
Four January culture recommendations from our editors.
Woman of Valor

Coretta Scott King walked alongside her husband Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights struggle—and kept on working for social justice after his assassination, until her death in 2006. My Life, My Love, My Legacy is her perspective, as told to Barbara Reynolds. Henry Holt

Come Together

In Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World, Leroy Barber draws from decades of ministry among diverse people to argue for the centrality of relationships across differences to achieving not just reconciliation, but true justice. Encouraging, openhearted words for divisive times. IVP Books

Testify

Sometimes, liberal Christians feel they need to apologize for the behavior of other Christians or churches. In Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting, writer and pastor Lillian Daniel encourages you instead to boldly tell your own story of faith and sacred relationship. Faith Words

Street Church

The Revolution Has Come , by Rev. Sekou & The Holy Ghost, was released in early 2016—but its gritty mix of R&B and gospel, freedom and resistance is more relevant every day. Activists/artists Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill met at a Black Lives Matter protest, and street movements permeate the songs. rshgmusic.com

Letters to the Editor

by The Editors 12-02-2016
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers
Binary, Schminary

As a Caucasian who is passionate about race reconciliation, I was over-the-moon thrilled when I read the piece by Kathy Khang, “Opting Out of the Black-White Binary,” in the November 2016 issue. I have long advocated to move beyond the black-white binary, as it excludes so many others from entering the conversation or sharing their own struggles and experiences with racism. I can’t wait to share this with others or read the book she co-authored!

Shanna Seye
via email

New Life, Old Problems

The fact that only 20 percent of the members of Congress are women should be understood as evidence that women are not seen as intelligent and as capable of wise judgment as men (“Welcome to Post-Sexist America,” by Jim Rice, November 2016). Women possess intelligence and judgment because they are, like men, human persons.

A post-sexist America would reflect this truth in the make-up of our governing body. However, a post-sexist America would also be called upon to recognize and support women in the aspect of their humanity which men do not share—women’s ability to carry and give birth to new life. Yet in this matter America is woefully remiss. The United States ranks 61st in maternal health. The risk of maternal death is higher here than in any developed country. We rank 29th in infant mortality—behind Cuba. While seven babies out of 1,000 live births die by the age of 5 in America, only three babies out of 1,000 live births die in Singapore. Surely, these figures would change dramatically in a post-sexist America.

Tesse Hartigan Donnelly
Oak Park, Illinois

Why Not Pro-Love?

David Gushee’s article (“The Abortion Impasse,” November 2016) suggests that “reducing demand” for abortions is the only meaningful path forward for us. Perhaps we can expedite this as a people by reminding ourselves that the summum bonum, or “highest good,” as far as Christian ethics has been able to articulate it, is love. Not life. Not freedom. Love. The problem love recognizes is that to choose life or freedom sometimes means death to someone. Love maximizes both life and freedom and will also sacrifice both for love. We can only be “pro-choice” and “pro-life” by being “pro-love.”

Graham Hutchins
Port Angeles, Washington

God’s heart for justice

Thank you for having the courage to print Brandon Wrencher’s November 2016 “Living the Word.” I’m a 73-year-old white lady who didn’t begin to understand God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, and justice until I was in my 40s. For about 20 years now, I’ve been sojourning mostly with black Christians, under black pastoral leadership, and studying a plethora of books by black authors. In the lives of my black friends I have seen the truths that Pastor Wrencher has brought to light. I’m praying that I can better articulate his concepts to my white brothers and sisters.

Carol Aucamp
St. Louis, Missouri

Clarification: The 1963 encyclical “Peace on Earth” was from Pope John XXIII, not from the Second Vatican Council as we stated in our December issue.

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